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Shortfall of 1,700 school governors

SCHOOLS in Kent are short of nearly 1,700 governors, a survey has revealed. County education chiefs say that there are 1,686 governor vacancies among Kent’s primary, secondary and special schools. However, it is thought that while the shortfall is serious, most posts are filled.

On average, it means all schools have between two and three unfilled vacancies for governors. The largest number of vacancies are among primary schools where 1,305 governors are needed. Secondary schools are short of more than three hundred.

The report suggests the number of vacancies is spread evenly across the county but that there are pockets where the problems of recruitment are more acute. In east Kent, there are nearly 500 primary vacancies while in west Kent there are 462. Even in the mid Kent district – which includes Ashford, Maidstone and Shepway, there are 350.

Head teachers say they are concerned but not surprised at the shortage. Eric Spear, of Staplehurst School, near Maidstone, who speaks for Kent heads on the National Association of Headteachers, said: “Who in their right mind would want to take on a job of such enormous responsibility; that consumes so much time and carries the risk that you might be sued or surcharged if you get things wrong?

"It is a miracle to me that anyone wants to stand. You could say that about a lot of voluntary jobs. I have said all along that it is totally unrealistic to expect a service like education to be run by unpaid volunteers in their spare time. It is just not feasible.”

The answer lay in giving heads greater power to take more day-to-day decisions on running their school without the need to refer to matters to the governors.

County councillor Tom Veitch, who chairs KCC's Governors Panel, said: "There are a huge number of places to fill but the problem is that the people who do want to do the job are often in the wrong places." He stressed that Kent was no worse off than other parts of the country and that the governing bodies of most schools were 80 per cent full.

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